In 2020, 17 inmates were executed in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) Capital Punishment reports present characteristics of persons under sentence of death and persons executed, and summarize the movement of prisoners into and out of death sentence status. See Prisoners executed under civil authority in the United States, by year, region, and jurisdiction for additional data on executions.
Compared to jail facilities, prisons are longer-term facilities owned by a state or by the federal government. Prisons typically hold felons and persons with sentences of more than 1 year. However, sentence length may vary by state. Six states (i.e., Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, Alaska, and Hawaii) have an integrated correctional system that combines jails and prisons. There are a small number of private prisons, facilities that are run by private prison corporations whose services and beds are contracted out by state or federal governments. See the Terms & Definitions section.
There are two national crime series which have data on crime rates and trends. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is based upon a sample of households and includes both crimes that are reported to police and those that are not reported. The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) is based upon local police reports which are compiled by the FBI. See (link) for a more detailed explanation of each data set. The two data series complement each other and both are “right” in terms of measuring what they are designed to measure. Please see the report, The Nation’s Two Crime Measures (NCJ 246832, BJS web), for more information.
You no longer have to order paper copies of BJS reports released prior to 1995. More than 450 BJS publications that were previously available only through postal mail are now accessible from the BJS website. To view a complete list of titles now available online, please view BJS Publications Prior to 1995. All BJS publications are free to download from the BJS website.
Number of victimizations per 1,000 persons or households in a given population that occurred during the year.
Many surveys have a specific margin of error because all of the questions are asked of every person. For example if you ask an opinion question all of the respondents in the sample, everyone can give an opinion. The margin of error is different for different crimes and different findings in NCVS because questions are asked only of people who are victims of those crimes. There is a large margin of error around statistically rare crimes, such as rape/sexual assault. The margin of error is smaller around crimes which occur more frequently, such as property theft. Within a crime category such as violent crime, the margin of error around specific characteristics such as hospitalization may be larger than that for overall violent crime, since the estimates are based only on violent crime victims who experienced that characteristic.
NIBRS stands for National Incident-Based Reporting System. Unlike the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which only collects data on the most serious offense that occurs during a criminal incident, NIBRS collects data on each reported offense occurring during criminal incident. You can learn more about NIBRS in the NIBRS Edition of the FBI's CJIS newsletter.
Though the NCVS was originally designed to provide national level estimates of criminal victimization, BJS has recognized an increasing need for victimization data at the state and local level. BJS has developed multiple approaches for obtaining subnational NCVS estimates, see NCVS Redesign: Subnational for additional information about these approaches.
UCR stands for the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, a project of the FBI. You can learn more about the UCR program on the FBI website.
The NCVS and UCR both offer important information on criminal victimization; however, the two programs were created to serve different purposes. The primary objective of the UCR is to provide a reliable set of criminal justice statistics for law enforcement administration, operation, and management. The NCVS was established to provide previously unavailable information about crime (including crime not reported to police), victims, and offenders. More information on the similarities and differences between the NCVS and UCR can be found in Nation's Two Crime Measures
We develop national estimates from sample cases of interviews with victims. We take the data we get from these interviews and weight it to represent the nation as a whole. All of the published data from the survey represent weighted estimates. When the national estimate is based on 10 or fewer actual sample cases, we make note of this and encourage caution in interpreting results.
The Census Bureau has regulations to protect confidentiality of data, which prevents the public release of any information from small areas that might make it possible to identify individuals who participated in the survey. Geographically identified data from the NCVS can be made available to researchers on a restricted basis through the Census Bureau's Federal Statistical Research Data Centers (FSRDC), following the approval of a proposal detailing how the data will be used. For more information see: https://www.census.gov/fsrdc.
Though the NCVS was originally designed to provide national level estimates of criminal victimization, BJS has recognized an increasing need for victimization data at the state and local level and has developed multiple approaches for obtaining subnational NCVS estimates. (See NCVS Redesign: Subnational for additional information about these approaches.) However, caution should be used when working with the restricted use files since sample at the local level may be limited and is not necessarily representative of the area as a whole.
When national estimates are derived from a sample, as with the NCVS, caution must be used when comparing one estimate to another estimate or when comparing estimates over time. Although one estimate may be larger than another, estimates based on a sample have some degree of sampling error. The sampling error of an estimate depends on several factors, including the amount of variation in the responses and the size of the sample. When the sampling error around an estimate is taken into account, the estimates that appear different may not be statistically different.
One measure of the sampling error associated with an estimate is the standard error. The standard error can vary from one estimate to the next. Generally, an estimate with a small standard error provides a more reliable approximation of the true value than an estimate with a large standard error. Estimates with relatively large standard errors are associated with less precision and reliability and should be interpreted with caution.
Data users can use the estimates and the standard errors of the estimates provided in NCVS reports to generate a confidence interval around the estimate as a measure of the margin of error. A confidence interval around the estimate can be generated by multiplying the standard errors by ±1.96 (the t-score of a normal, two-tailed distribution that excludes 2.5% at either end of the distribution). Therefore, the 95% confidence interval around an estimate is the estimate ± (the standard error X 1.96). In others words, if different samples using the same procedures were taken from the U.S. population, 95% of the time the estimate would fall within that confidence interval. See the NCVS Methodology for an example.
LEMAS stands for Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics. The LEMAS survey is typically conducted every 3 to 4 years and collects data from over 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, including all those that employ 100 or more sworn officers and a nationally representative sample of smaller agencies. The first LEMAS survey was conducted in 1987. Data are obtained on the organization and administration of police departments and sheriffs' offices, including agency responsibilities, operating expenditures, job functions of sworn and civilian employees, officer salaries and special pay, demographic characteristics of officers, weapons and armor policies, education and training requirements, computers and information systems, video cameras, vehicles, special units, and community policing activities. Visit the LEMAS Series page and the LEMAS Data Collection section of our site to learn more.
The percentage of males (24%) experiencing contact with police was higher than the percentage of females (23%) in 2018. Among U.S. residents age 16 or older, persons ages 18 to 24 experienced the highest percentage of police contact (30%) in 2018. White residents (26%) experienced a higher rate of contact with police than black (21%) and Hispanic (19%) residents in 2018.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) 2003 survey, local police departments operated about 243,000 cars, or 52 cars per 100 officers. Sheriffs’ offices operated 118,000 cars, or 66 per 100 officers; and the 49 primary state law enforcement agencies operated 49,000 cars, or 85 per 100 officers.
The largest number of federal officers performed criminal investigation and law enforcement duties (38%). The next largest category was police response and patrol (21%), followed by corrections and detention (16%), inspections related to immigration or customs laws (16%), court operations (5%), and security and protection (4%).
The NCVS is designed to measure crime on a yearly basis. Criminologists have many theories about what causes crime rates to go up or down. There is no consensus among criminologists or others about the causes of crime or changes in crime rates. You may wish to read some of the literature in the criminology field to obtain more information about differing ideas on this topic.
The NCVS measures violent and property crime experienced by victims in the United States. This includes—
- Violent crimes of rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated or simple assault.
- Personal theft.
- Property crimes of household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and theft.
- Routine supplements address: identity theft, stalking, and contacts between the police and the public.
No, kidnapping is not a crime that is covered by the NCVS.
According to the 2016 BJS Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, departments serving 100,000 to 249,999 and 50,000-99,999 residents had the lowest average ratio (1.7 officers per 1,000 residents). Departments serving populations of 1 million or more and 1,000 to 9,999 had 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents.
The measurement of rape and sexual assault presents many challenges. Victims may not be willing to reveal or share their experiences with an interviewer. The level and type of sexual violence reported by victims is sensitive to a variety of factors related to the interview process, including how items are worded, what definitions are used, and the data collection mode. In addition, the legal definitions of rape and sexual assault vary across jurisdictions. While the change in the rape or sexual assault rate from year to year may be significantly different, care should be taken in interpreting this change because the estimates of rape or sexual assault are based on a small number of cases reported to the survey. Therefore, small absolute changes and fluctuations in the rates of victimization can result in larger year-to-year change estimates. BJS has initiated projects to identify, develop, and test the best methods for collecting self-report data on rape and sexual assault. For more information on BJS's active research program on the collection of rape and sexual assault data, see Measuring Rape and Sexual Assault.
On average, local police officers were required to complete about 1,100 hours of training compared to about 1,000 hours for campus police. Campus police departments (30%) were more likely to have a college requirement for new officers than local police (20%). Campus police departments were also more likely than local police departments to assess recruits’ community relations skills prior to hiring. Community relations skills included problem-solving skills (campus police 58%, local police 37%), understanding cultural diversity (campus police 57%, local police 16%), and conflict management (campus police 42%, local police 11%).
Campus law enforcement agencies performed functions related to special events security, dispatching calls for services, traffic enforcement, property crime investigation, building lockup, parking enforcement, and violent crime investigation. Functions performed by a majority of agencies serving the smallest campuses, but not the majority of agencies serving the largest campuses, included parking administration, vehicle registration, key control, and fire prevention education.
Reports on violence in the workplace offer the latest information on nonfatal and fatal forms of violence against private-sector and government employees that occur where they are working or on duty.
According to the 2003 BJS Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, 5% of local police departments operated at least one boat. Most local police departments serving 250,000 or more residents had boats. About 1% of local police departments operated at least one helicopter. The majority of local police departments serving 250,000 or more residents had a helicopter. Less than 0.5% of local police departments operated at least one airplane. For more detailed information regarding helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, please see BJS Special Report Aviation Units in Large Law Enforcement Agencies, 2007.
The reports located on BJS website are the most recent versions. Some reports are updated occasionally. We are working on procedures which we hope will make it possible to update more of our data more frequently. We are also working on new methods of presenting our data online so that it will be possible for individuals to get more recent information on specific variables of interest.
According to the 2016 BJS Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, state and local agencies employed about 701,000 full-time sworn officers as of June 30, 2016. Local police departments employed 468,000 of these officers, sheriffs' offices, 173,000, and the 49 primary state law enforcement agencies, 60,000.
According to the 2004-05 BJS Survey of Campus Law Enforcement Agencies, 74% of colleges and universities with 2,500 or more students used sworn officers. Nearly all public campuses (93%) used sworn officers and 86% had armed patrol officers. Less than half of private campuses (42%) had sworn police forces, and 30% had armed patrol officers. The majority of the private campuses with 10,000 or more students had sworn, armed police forces.
A higher percentage of males (13%) than females (10%) experienced police-initiated contacts in 2018.
Whites (26%) were more likely than blacks (21%), Hispanics (19%), or persons of other races (20%) to experience police contact.
There was no statistically significant difference in the percentage of whites (12%) and blacks (11%) who experienced police-initiated contact.
Hispanics (10%) were less likely than whites (12%) to experience police-initiated contact.
Whites (16%) were more likely than blacks (11%), Hispanics (10%), or other persons (11%) to initiate contact with police.
Among all age groups measured, persons ages 18 to 24 were most likely to have any contact with police (30%) and to experience police-initiated contact (19%).
Percent of person or households in a given population who experienced at least one victimization during the year.
The Identity Theft Supplement (ITS) is a supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). It was administered in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 and captures person level information on identity theft against persons age 16 or older.
BJS counts generated by the Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies (CSLLEA) are more inclusive than those from the UCR because they include all agencies and all officers employed with these agencies who have general arrest powers. The counts from the UCR are limited to participating agencies and to officers paid out of police funds (as opposed to jail or court funds). In 2004, CSLLEA officer totals were about 56,000 higher than the UCR totals.
According to the 2016 BJS Law Enforcement and Management Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, about 9 in 10 local police departments authorized their patrol officers to carry pepper spray (91% of agencies) and a baton (89% of agencies). An estimated 88% of departments authorized the use of conducted energy devices (CED) weapons such as Tasers or stun guns.
The largest employers of federal officers were U.S. customs and Border Protection (CBP) (27,705), Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) (15,214), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (12,242), and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (10,399). Ten other agencies employed at least 1,000 officers.
The Brady Act recognizes the need to automate state record systems that contribute most of the relevant information to the FBI record system, which would be checked by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Brady Act established the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP)—a program of grants to be used by the states to create or improve computerized criminal history record systems—to assist in the transmittal of criminal records for use by the NICS and improve access to the NICS. NCHIP is administered by the Department's Office of Justice Programs through the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). At the state level, NCHIP grants are administered to state agencies designated by the Governor. Since 1995 NCHIP has provided over $500 million in grants to states to improve the automation of record systems that contribute to the FBI information used in NICS checks.
Notwithstanding these efforts under NCHIP and the tremendous progress the state and federal criminal justice information repositories have made in record automation since 1995, the databases checked by the FBI are still missing significant percentages of relevant data that originate in the states, including final dispositions of records of arrests for prohibiting offenses, records of convictions for domestic violence misdemeanor offenses, and information identifying persons with prohibiting domestic violence protection orders or with disqualifying mental health adjudications and commitments.
No, some sheriffs' office personnel are not sworn officers. While sheriffs' offices employed about 189,000 full-time sworn officers in 2013, some personnel had limited or no arrest authority. Sheriffs' deputies who work in jails, courtrooms, and the civil process department often do not attend police academies and do not have general arrest authority. These personnel may be deputies that attend specialized training for their duties or be civilian employees. In 2013, the nation's sheriffs' offices employed about 163,000 full-time civilian employees.
A list of federally recognized tribes in the U.S. is available at https://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/biaind.pdf.
The "What is the sequence of events in the criminal justice system?" flowchart summarizes the most common events in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, including entry into the justice system, prosecution and pretrial services, adjudication, sentencing and sanctions, and corrections. An online version of this chart as well as a discussion of the events in the criminal justice system are available on the BJS site. A color version of the chart can also be ordered. See our How to Find BJS Products page for direction on how to submit your request.